Japan Today

Football meets cinema at Short Shorts Film Festival

By David Labi

When football meets cinema what you usually get is a broken projector window and an angry proprietor. In the case of the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2011, being held from June 16-26 in Tokyo and Yokohama, what you get instead is the Football Program.

One of the numerous screenings making up the festival—which range from a 3D selection to be shown in Cinemart Shinjuku and a category of shorts shot purely with DSLR cameras—Short Shorts’ Football Program is presented by the J League in commemoration of its 20th anniversary. When Japanese football’s professional league replaced the amateur Japan Soccer League in 1992, Japan quickly established itself as a leading football power in Asia. Stemming from a decline in both attendance and revenue, 1999 saw the encouragement of many more community-minded activities by teams, and the introduction of a one-hundred-year vision. The aim is to have 100 professional teams by the centenary of the J League. Just eighty years shy of that, we can view the spectacle of eight films from six countries on the subject of the beautiful game.

The most notable, perhaps, is a 1998 offering from "Billy Elliot" director Stephen Daldry. "Eight" tells the moving story of an eight-year-old football fan trying to get used to living in a new town after the death of his father. You’ll be hard pushed not to mimic the little tyke in the opening shot, when he stands on a beach with a homemade Liverpool shirt on and screams in his infectious Scouse accent, “My name is Jonathan and I am eight!” The 13-minute film—as well-shot and poignant as one would expect from the guy who brought you everyone’s favorite working-class boy ballerina—was viewed by Daldry and producer Jonathan Finn as a test run for "Billy Elliot," which they went on to shoot the following year.

Another one to watch out for among the half-time oranges is an Australian-Thai co-production from New York- and Sydney-based collective The Glue Society. Based on a true story, "Panyee FC" presents a southern Thailand football team spawned in the most unlikely of places—a floating village in the Andaman Sea without a single inch of space to play. Football has always been known as the “great leveler”—even slumland ragamuffins (like Maradona) could play it, as all you need is a ball (between many) and a patch of ground. In this case, these poor kids didn’t even have one of those basic elements. Yet, they defied the norms to triumph in this inspirational story, wonderfully shot and with a cheery bouncing rhythm that packs as much drama and emotion in five minutes as you might find in many a Hollywood feature.

One more worthy entry from the eight films of the program has an old Brazilian man reminiscing about his time in the ’50s playing street soccer with a local kid who would grow to become a legend. Paulo Machline’s "Soccer Story" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short in 2000.

Taking place from June 16-26 in Tokyo and Yokohama, the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2011 is set to screen 68 shorts from 23 countries. The Football Program is just one of the various that will be shown.

The festival has come a long way from its inception in 1999, when just 30 shorts were screened. It is now one of the most acclaimed shorts festivals in Asia. This year, 68 shorts from 23 countries were selected from more than 4,200 submissions. The program ranges from shorts starring Oscar-winning actors to low-budget efforts shot on digital SLR cameras.

Besides the Football Program, here are a few other things to look out.

The Celebrity Shorts & Maestro Shorts program features eight works from high-profile filmmakers, starring Oscar winner Colin Firth and nominees Jesse Eisenberg and Keira Knightly among others. Speaking of the Oscars, the Academy Program will feature the five works nominated the 83rd Academy Awards in the category Short Film (Live Action), including the winner "God of Love."

The EOS MOVIE Program program gives a glimpse of digital cinema with three shorts by young Japanese directors shot on the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 7D, digital still cameras that upcoming filmmakers are repurposing into low-budget but high-quality movie cameras.

This year’s fest is the first to include a CG Animation Program, including Oscar-winning short "The Lost Thing." While short-form 3D technology can be sampled at Cinemart Shinjuku with the 3D Competition, featuring international works and a seminar by director Takashi Yamazaki.

Focus on Italy, included to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, features shorts by late director Michelangelo Antonioni and Gabrielle Mucchino.

Look beyond Tokyo with the Short Story "Nagoya" (no English subtitles), highlighting shorts set in the Japan’s third largest city. Or look beyond Japan altogether with the Let’s Travel Project—showing that Japanese filmmakers love their neighbors—with Japanese-Korean coproductions and Korean-made shorts as well as Japanese shorts about travel.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

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stevepc, the official name is "association football." Football can refer to many different sports, depending on the area (America, Australia, etc)

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I thought this was an article about football but all they talked about was soccer...

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If you are into football (you know, the game played with your 'foot' and a 'ball' - hence the name) then Vikash Dhorasoo's film- Substitute - he made during the 2006 world cup is highly recommended. A fascinating story of what it feels like to be so involved, yet at the same time so removed & distant. Quality.

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Hey dude it is called soccer because the English named it soccer. If you got a problem with the official name go talk to the English.

Football is called football because the ball is 12 inches long and therefore a foot long.

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Actualy soccer came from the group who first organized and made the rules for modern soccer. It was some kind of strange abbreviation/acronym that was so strange only the English could pull it off.

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I assume you must be an Aussie or a kiwi, and by "football" you mean Aussie Rules or Rugby. Because there's nothing manly about dressing up in a helmet and padding and prancing around like prima donna for thirty seconds before taking a five-minute brak.

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CruzControl; the official name is football, soccetr was a later slang term. In Britain it is know as football.

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bicultural; I know what it is called, and soccer is an abbreviation of association, that is what i was trying to explain to Cruzcontrol who claims that the name football is called because the ball is a foot long.

Moderator: Readers back on topic please. The subject is the Short Shorts Film Festival.

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